Meet Dolly, the Indian roadside tea seller whose 'hot chai' is Bill Gates-approved

Dolly Patil did not know he was serving tea to the American billionaire

Dolly Patil, a tea seller from Nagpur in India's Maharashtra state, serves chai to billionaire Bill Gates. Photo: Dolly Patil
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An Indian tea seller has become an overnight sensation after serving a cup of hot chai to Bill Gates.

Dolly Patil, who runs the Dolly ki Tapri roadside tea stall in Nagpur, in the western state of Maharashtra, has a massive following in the city because of his eccentric style and unique tea-making skills.

Now the 30-year-old has gained nationwide fame after serving Mr Gates, the Microsoft founder, American billionaire and philanthropist.

“The moment I gave him tea, he said: 'Wow! Good tea, Dolly,'” Mr Patil told The National. “He was very nice and humble.”

The meeting happened on February 27 when Mr Patil was invited to make tea for “some foreigners” in the city of Hyderabad, in the southern state of Telangana.

Mr Patil had no idea of the identity of the “foreigner” standing next to him throughout the tea-making process, until Mr Gates shared his video on social media a day later.

“In India, you can find innovation everywhere you turn – even in the preparation of a simple cup of tea!” Mr Gates wrote with the footage of him smiling and looking intrigued.

“I was called to Hyderabad to make tea for seven or eight foreigners,” Mr Patil said. “I started making tea and one man was standing next to me. I did not know who he was.

“It was only after I came back home that my friends called and asked me if I knew whom I had served tea to. I was clueless and they said he was Bill Gates. They said he was a big man. I did not know who Bill Gates was!”

Mr Patil sells a simple masala chai at his stall.

“It is a concoction of tea leaves, milk, cardamom and crushed ginger. Nothing special except the way I serve it,” he said.

It is his style and antics – inspired by superstar Rajnikant – that draw customers, he said.

Lanky, with long hair dyed auburn, Mr Patil often wears striking yellow sunglasses and has a wide smile.

He pours the packets of milk straight into the saucepan with a flourish and shuffles the cups before handing them to the customer.

“I was inspired by south Indian cinema and Mr Rajnikant and infused his style with mine,” he said. “I like how he wears his sunglasses or lights a cigarette or even walks. I imitate him.”

On any given day, Mr Patil uses about 30 litres of milk to make tea and earns about 3,000 rupees ($36) in profit, he said.

He also shares videos of his tea-making online to more than 90,000 followers.

But, despite his popularity, he has no plans to expand his business beyond the tiny stall.

His ambition is to one day serve tea to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“More customers are coming to the stall. They’re making videos and posting on social media. I am enjoying this attention," Mr Patil said. “I want to [put] Nagpur on the world map. I am delighted that I could do so, people not just know me, but my city as well.

“Now my only dream is to make tea for Mr Modi.”

Updated: March 01, 2024, 1:11 PM